Maoists kidnap Collector; Orissa halts anti-Naxal operation

The Naxals are demanding freeing of their jailed comrades and have set a 48-hr deadline.

Malkangiri: In perhaps the first
-ever abduction of an IAS officer by Maoists, Malkangiri
district collector R V Krishna was kidnapped after which
Orissa government conceded one of the two demands by Naxals by
halting combing operations across the state.

30-year-old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, was
kidnapped last evening by a group of 50 Maoists, officials
said today. The Naxals have set a two-day deadline for meeting
their demands--halt to anti-Naxal operations and freeing of
jailed compatriots.

Krishna was on a visit to the remote Chitrakonda area,
a Maoist stronghold about 85 km from here, to attend a camp
for local development, police said.

He was taken hostage after he went from a public
interaction camp held at Badapada bordering Andhra Pradesh to
inspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcycle along with
two junior engineers and another person, Chitrakonda Tehsildar
D Gopal Krishnan said.

The collector and a junior engineer--Pabitra Majhi--
were held captive while the two others reached Badapada late
last night with a letter and handed it over to senior
officials, he said.

In a bid to facilitate the safe release of the two
men, Orissa government halted combing operations across the

"Instructions have been issued to stop combing
operations across the state, including in Malkangiri from
where the district collector and a junior engineer were
abducted last evening," state Home Secretary U N Behera
said in Bhubaneswar.

The government, he said, was hopeful that the abductors
would release the two men by tomorrow as one of their major
demands have been fulfilled. "We think that there is no need
to appeal for an extension of the deadline."

As authorities launched "back channel" efforts to secure
the release of the captives, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram
spoke to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on phone and
asked him to make all efforts for safe return of Krishna.

Officials in Bhubaneswar said the state government has
contacted Naxal sympathiser and balladeer Varavara Rao and
social activist Swami Agnivesh for help.

Patnaik reviewed the situation with state Chief
Secretary B K Patnaik, Home Secretary U N Behera and other top
officials and said that the government was evaluating all
options and monitoring the case.

"I appeal for early release of the young and energetic
officer, who is known for his hard work among the poor and the
tribals," the Chief Minister told reporters.

In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, "I think it
will take some time (for the release) because the area is
quite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway... we
are quite confident of getting him back."

Swami Agnivesh said he was ready to help the
government for the safe release of Krishna.

Thousands of people from all walks of life also took
out spontaneous peace processions in several parts of Orissa
in a mass outpouring of concern and appealed for the release
of the two captives.